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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 20th Aug 2021 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Famously Proper plans UK rollout of Mother Clucker as virtual brand through Byron estate: Famously Proper is set to expand Mother Clucker, the London-based, buttermilk-fried chicken concept, as a virtual brand through its Byron estate, Propel has learned. A trial for Mother Clucker has begun in a Byron test, ahead of the start of a planned national rollout from September. Famously Proper chief executive Simon Wilkinson said: “The trial within the test site allows us to fine-tune the kitchen operation in terms of the preparation and the unique taste of Mother Clucker chicken that its followers have come to love. The team has been working hard to learn from Mother Clucker about how to serve the perfect tea-brined double dipped chicken and during this trial, we will also take the opportunity to upgrade the Byron chicken product and preparation method too. So not only are we able to bring Mother Clucker to more fans, we will also improve the current Byron chicken taste. Once we are 100% satisfied with the outcome of the trial, we intend to launch Mother Clucker as a delivery-only virtual brand in more than 20 Byron locations during mid-September, which will probably be the biggest launch of a chicken brand in one day within the UK for some time, if not ever. If we execute flawlessly, we will be able to add Mother Clucker as a nationwide delivery brand with very little or no additional complexity to our current Byron operation. We will communicate more details prior to the national launch when we are confident and ready to go but, needless to say, the whole team is very excited about taking Mother Clucker to all corners of the UK.” Meanwhile, Wilkinson said better burger brand Byron has seen double-digit sales growth against pre-pandemic levels and ahead of budget expectations since the start of the summer holidays. Famously Proper acquired Mother Clucker, which was founded in 2012 by Ross Curnow and Brittney Bean, in May this year. 

Industry News: 

New companies appearing in The Propel Multi-Site Database to be named today: The 64 new companies appearing in the next edition of The Propel Multi-Site Database, to be published at midday on Friday, 27 August, and produced in association with Virgate, will be named at 9am this morning (Friday, 20 August). The 64 new additions, which operate 417 sites, will bring the total number of companies on the database up to 2,016. The go-to database provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. Premium subscribers will receive the second edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with Starstock, on Tuesday, 31 August at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and will be updated every month. Meanwhile, subscribers also have access to another database called Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. The Blue Book, which is also updated every month, with the latest version having just been sent out, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. In today’s (Friday, 20 August) Premium Opinion column, Wingett looks at the evolution of YO! and how interested suitors will find a multi-brand, multi-format business geared to weather most storms. He also looks back at the latest update from Franco Manca-owner Fulham Shore, and asks how good was the sales pitch? Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email to sign up.
Calls for fairer pay to help ease hospitality staffing crisis in Greater Manchester: The staffing crisis in Greater Manchester’s hospitality sector could be ended by employers signing up to raising the standards of working conditions and fairer pay, according to business leaders. Night-time economy adviser Sacha Lord and Local Enterprise Partnership chair Lou Cordwell are calling on businesses to sign Greater Manchester’s Good Employment Charter in order to attract and retain staff. The industry is recovering after almost 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions, but many bars, restaurants and venues are having difficulty filling open positions. The pair have said thousands of experienced staff have left the industry and many EU nationals, who were previously employed in the hospitality sector, are now unable to work in the UK. They argue that by raising pay and conditions across the industry in Greater Manchester, employers could begin to attract more people to unfilled posts and grow their businesses – while helping to make Greater Manchester a beacon of good employment and an exemplar of how the sector recovers in the UK. Lord said: “It is time to raise standards and ensure fair pay in our hospitality sector. As we rebuild from the devastating effects of covid and Brexit on the sector, we can’t expect the youngest and hardest hit by the pandemic to be satisfied with minimum wage roles, when they can earn higher salaries elsewhere in office work or in retail. The charter supports employers to improve conditions for their employees, like paying the real living wage, providing more flexible work and developing excellent recruitment practices. I believe our hospitality businesses now need to get on board and be at the forefront of good employment. Attracting the right people to our sector is critical to its survival and I believe this is the way to do it." Greater Manchester’s Good Employment Charter sets out seven features that employers must demonstrate they are working towards – providing secure work, providing flexible work, working towards paying a real living wage, improving workplace engagement and voice, developing excellent recruitment practices, improving people management, and fostering employee health and well-being.

Restaurants sue New York City over vaccine mandate for indoor activities: Three restaurants are suing New York City and mayor Bill de Blasio over its vaccine mandate for indoor activities. The outer-borough restaurants are hoping to overturn the mandate, arguing it unfairly affects restaurants and excludes other indoor facilities such as hairdressers, offices and churches. The restaurants involved in the lawsuit are Deluca’s Italian Restaurant and Max’s Esca in Staten Island, and Pasticceria Rocco in Brooklyn. The Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue and two gyms – Evolve-33 and Staten Island Judo Jujitsu – are also plaintiffs in the complaint. The lawsuit has the support of several Republican elected officials, reports The New York Times. The lawsuit stated the plaintiffs feel the vaccine mandates are “unscientific” and “would severely impact their business, life savings and livelihood.” The lawsuit comes weeks after de Blasio announced workers and customers wanting to participate in indoor activities such a gyms, restaurants and performance venues would be required to show proof of vaccination against covid-19. De Blasio said he feels confident his executive order will withstand a legal challenge. He added: “We’re in a global pandemic still. The decisions that have been taken have been done so with the leadership of our health officials who have been fighting this battle from the beginning.”
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to be headline speaker as UKHospitality’s annual conference returns: Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will be the headline speaker at this year’s UKHospitality annual conference. The event will take place on Monday, 20 September, at the RAC in London. Kwarteng will be joined by sector leaders, including McDonald’s UK chief executive Paul Pomroy; Karin Shepard, European managing director of InterContinental Hotels Group; and Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls will give her take on the state of the sector after 18 gruelling months and update on the challenges, opportunities and plans to help drive recovery. The conference will also include exclusive new research from industry analysts CGA and STR, as well as a deep dive into the economic outlook for the sector. Following the conference, there will be a networking reception. Nicholls said: “We are pleased the business secretary will be joining us for our annual conference this year. This year’s in-person conference is an important opportunity for us all to come together, share experiences and also remind a key figure in the government of the enormous contribution our industry makes to the economic and social well-being of the UK.”
Job of the day: COREcruitment is supporting a contract catering business as it looks for an operations manager. The position is based in Kent, paying up to £55,000 per annum. A COREcruitment spokesman said: “The client is looking for an energetic, financially astute and driven operations manager for this complex healthcare site. The role is to develop and lead the team overseeing soft services including patient and retail catering, portering, pest control, linen, and helpdesk/switchboard. A strong financial understanding and proven target achievement is needed to succeed in the role. You will have experience at operations level within NHS contracts previously and be able to demonstrate multi-site operational success with turnover of more than £7m. Previous experience within an NHS contract at a management level would be ideal. Strong leadership skills, great client relationship experience and a good understanding of financial management would all be key for this position.” Anyone interested can email their CV to
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News: 

Full-year profits at Jamie Oliver more than halve as chef counts cost of pandemic: Full-year profits at Jamie Oliver’s holding company more than halved in 2020, as the chef counted the cost of the pandemic, including on his international restaurant business. Jamie Oliver Holdings, which also handles the chef’s TV rights, books and endorsements posted pre-tax profits of £1.7m on sales of £24m in 2020, according to newly filed accounts. In the previous year, profits were £4.1m on sales of £30m. Ebitda in 2020 fell to £8.7m from £10.5m the previous year. The international restaurant arm posted turnover of £1.6m, which was down from £2.7m the year before. There were impairment losses on franchise and development contracts of £3.6m. The company stated: “The principal drivers of the contraction in profitability were the travel restrictions, temporary closures and social distancing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which negatively impacted our restaurant franchises as well as TV production and distribution performance. We have, however, successfully delivered new Jamie Oliver titles in both book and TV formats during the year and there has been a continued strong performance from back catalogue book titles, ongoing revenue flows from our endorsement contracts and our international distributor Fremantle. The group has made significant progress expanding its offering through virtual and online experiences.” Oliver and his wife Jools did not take a dividend in the latest year. In March, Oliver let his brother-in-law, Paul Hunt, go as chief executive of the group. The accounts showed, during the year, a loan of almost £200,000 to the company by Hunt was repaid. Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain fell into administration in May 2019 with the loss of 1,000 jobs. 
Greene King acquires iconic Manchester pub: Brewer and retailer Greene King has acquired the Deansgate pub in Manchester, Propel has learned. The pub, located in Deansgate, will sit in the pub company’s Premium, Urban & Venture division when it reopens. A Greene King spokeswoman said: “We’re delighted to bring this iconic pub into our managed portfolio. It is well known and well loved by the people of Manchester and we look forward to welcoming customers back in the near future.” Last month, Propel revealed Greene King had bought the Memorial Hall building in Manchester’s Albert Square, which has been home to the Albert Square Chop House for the past ten years. The site will be renamed The Fountain House and offer premium gastropub dining on the lower ground floor, a pub experience on the ground floor and private dining and function space for weddings and meetings on the first floor.
Greene King features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which has just been updated for Premium subscribers. Greene King turned over £562.1m in its most recent financial year, making it the 13th highest of the 351 companies featured. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, and ranks the companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors and now includes Propel insight editor Mark Wingett’s “Propel Pick” – his pick of the companies well placed to grow in the post-pandemic era. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email to sign up.
Lussmanns to open fifth restaurant at former Bill’s in Berkhamstead: Lussmanns Fish & Grill, the independent brasserie group backed by investor Luke Johnson, is set to open a new venue in Berkhamsted. It would be the fifth site for the Hertfordshire-based company, with building work under way at the grade II-listed property in High Street that was previously home to Bill’s Restaurant & Bar. It is expected to open in early November. Lussmanns Fish & Grill founder and managing director Andrei Lussmann told Hemel Today: “Berkhamsted is a stunning location and the perfect place for our fifth Lussmanns in the county. Over the past 20 years, we have a built a restaurant brand that the discerning people of Hertfordshire trust. They trust Lussmanns to deliver exceptional food, with excellent service, while committing to a set of ethical values that place the treatment of our planet, and of our people, at the top of the agenda. I believe it is perfectly possible to be both ethical and profitable while serving food and drink that is beautifully prepared and presented.” The restaurant group operates sites in Hertford, St Albans, Harpenden and Hitchin. Lussmann opened his first cafe in 2002 in Ladbroke Grove and his first fish and grill restaurant in Hertford in 2004. 
Restaurant Associates Venues launches its first contactless restaurant at UK’s largest zoo: Premium hospitality company Restaurant Associates Venues, which is part of Compass Group UK & Ireland, has launched its first digital-only restaurant at the UK’s largest zoo, ZSL Whipsnade. Using Compass Group’s technology, guests are able to customise their experience ahead of time through the Time 2 Eat app, including perusing menus with allergens and selecting final orders to dine in at the Base Camp restaurant. The all-day menu includes garlic butterfly chicken with creamy mash and green beans; and the signature Basecamp Burger served in a brioche bun. Drinks feature craft beer, cider and wine alongside soft drinks and barista-made coffee. Restaurant Associates Venues managing director Steve Chandler said: “ZSL Whipsnade’s ethos to take guest satisfaction to the next level matches our own and we hope the Time 2 Eat technology will support this philosophy and propel this further.” Chris Webb, commercial manager at ZSL Whipsnade, added: “Making lunch time easy and enjoyable for families is essential and the new contactless restaurant will allow parents to order ahead of time and skip any queues.”
Olive Tree Brasserie shuts Preston site: Mediterranean restaurant Olive Tree Brasserie has shut its site in Preston. After ongoing negotiations with the landlord, the restaurant in Church Street has shut. Owner Dean Wilson said: “Thankfully, all Preston staff members are keeping their jobs and will be working at our Lytham restaurant. Our Lytham, Stockton Heath and Chester restaurants remain unaffected and are open as usual. We want to assure you the Olive Tree brand is stronger than ever and we have an exciting future ahead. We will endeavour to transfer as many bookings from Preston to any of our remaining locations upon request.” Olive Tree Brasserie opened its debut site in 2008 in St Annes, which shut when the Lytham branch launched in 2018.
Vaulkhard Group to open Cuban-inspired bar and restaurant in Newcastle this month after ‘pingdemic’ delay: Newcastle-based leisure firm Vaulkhard Group is opening a Cuban-inspired bar and restaurant in the city centre this month. Castro’s, which will offer Latin-inspired food, drink, and cocktails, will launch on Wednesday (25 August). It had been due to open in mid-July but had to be delayed as a result of the “pingdemic”. Castro’s will open in Hood Street, formerly the Beeronomy site, which the group purchased from Newcastle Building Society. Castro’s will offer both vertical drinking and table service for its customers and also have outdoor space. The venue will have the “north east’s largest rum selection”, while the food menu will follow a Cuban theme, mixing traditional chicken, fish and rice dishes with twists from its neighbouring Caribbean islands and South America. The venue, which will create 30 jobs, will also feature a hidden secret bar that will host salsa dance classes, rum sessions, cocktail masterclasses and a private booking area. Director Ollie Vaulkhard said: “The pingdemic has been another hit for the hospitality industry. With the majority of our staff having to self-isolate, it’s been impossible for us to launch Castro’s and deliver the best experience we know we can. The region wants to support local businesses and we in the industry now have a duty to provide safe, enjoyable experiences. We know Castro’s will be a very welcome addition to the heart of Newcastle city centre.” Vaulkhard Group, which also owns other city centre venues including Blakes, Bealim House and Mushroom, recently announced a string of acquisitions, taking on ownership of drinking venues such as Bridge Tavern and Town Wall, and dispensing of late-night venues Perdu and MSA.
East Yorkshire-based restaurant operator Bert’s to open third site: East Yorkshire-based restaurant operator Bert’s is to open its third site. The company operates Bert’s Pizzeria in the village of Brandesburton, and Bert’s Pizza and Gelato in Hull’s Fruit Market. Now the family-owned business is expanding further to open Bert’s Pasta and Bar at 1 Humber Street in Hull in a renovated 1,200 square foot building. Its latest venue will include a central circular bar area where customers can share fresh small-plate pasta dishes over a glass of wine. Meanwhile, a choice of 16 flavours of gelato will be served within the restaurant and through a hatch to passers-by, along with waffles and milkshakes. Bert’s Pasta and Bar will have seating for up to 40 customers inside and up to 60 covers for alfresco dining and is expected to open at the end of September. Ellie Mewburn, owner and manager of all three Bert’s establishments – named after her grandfather Robert (Bert) Mewburn – said: “We’ve been made to feel so welcome by the Fruit Market community since we moved in and it’s definitely the place to be in Hull, so we’re excited to be expanding with this new venture. We’ve extensively researched pasta bars in London and have taken the best elements of these, bringing them all together with our own style.” The Bert’s team will make pasta in-house daily, with a future plan to offer takeaway lunch boxes and fresh “cook-at-home” pasta bags once the restaurant is established.
Bird & Blend Tea Co raises double £300,000 crowdfunding target to support store expansion within two days of campaign’s public launch: Brighton-based tea business Bird & Blend Tea Co has raised double its initial £300,000 target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube within two days of the campaign’s public launch as it looks to add further shops to its portfolio. Bird & Blend Tea Co was founded in 2012 by Kristina Smith and Mike Turner with the couple setting up the business in their bedroom. It now operates 13 stores, including a flagship site in Brighton as well as a growing e-commerce business. To support its expansion, Bird & Blend Tea Co was aiming to raise £300,000 and was offering 2.97% equity, giving a pre-money valuation of £18m. So far, the campaign has raised more than £620,000 from in excess of 1,000 investors and continues to overfund with 28 days remaining. This is the second fundraise by Bird & Blend Tea Co, with its last campaign only fully live for four hours before closing. The pitch stated: “We’ve grown from packing tea in a back bedroom and selling at market stalls, to operating multiple retail stores, employing 125-plus people and running a global e-commerce platform attracting 100,000 monthly users. We achieved £3.97m turnover in FY21 despite lockdown closures of our retail stores, with £271,000 net profit and £362,000 Ebitda. Since our 2017 crowdfund, we’ve continued to grow our retail portfolio and now have 13 experiential retail stores across the UK and grown digital revenue 143% year-on-year during the pandemic. We’re proudly championing the concept of tea mixology. We’re well on our way to becoming the UK’s top brand for earth-friendly, innovative tea blends, gifts, accessories, experiences and drinks. We’re raising funds to expedite the growth of our brand with investments in digital innovation, our tech stack and our team; continue investing in local communities and experiential retail by opening more multi-sensory stores; and undertake impactful ethics and sustainability projects and achieve B Corp status.”
Jollibee to open Reading site next month: Jollibee, the Philippines fast food group, which plans to invest £30m on expanding in the UK, will open its new Reading site next month. The outlet in Broad Street – its seventh in the UK – will launch on Thursday, 9, September. Adam Parkinson, business head of Jollibee Europe, told the Reading Chronicle: “We are really on a roll now, opening a new restaurant every month. Reading was top of our list as the Thames Valley’s regional centre for shopping and an incredibly well-connected town in the south east’s thriving economy.” The fried chicken brand, which operates about 1,200 sites worldwide, plans to be in “every major city in the UK”, and is planning a further 15 to 20 openings here next year. The brand, which plans to open ten new sites in 2021, has openings lined up in Edinburgh, Newcastle and Nottingham. Its expansion in Europe will include its first restaurant in Spain, which will open later this year in Madrid.
Store Retail Group opens site at Deansgate Square development in Manchester: Independent food hall operator and food and drink retailer Store Retail Group has opened a site at the Deansgate Square development in Manchester. The 4,500 square foot Deansgate Square General Store combines “all the very best aspects” of the group’s other sites, in Ancoats and MediaCityUK. Part corner shop, part community hub, Deansgate Square General Store houses a coffee shop that also serves juices, smoothies and cold brews, and has an ever-changing street food vendor on-site. There is also an alcohol “emporium” with tasting area, fresh baked goods, and zero-waste, essential household refill stations. The outlet is located on the ground floor of the amenity building. Store Retail Group managing director Mital Morar said: “We’ve been working behind the scenes to make this a special experience for the community with a lot of exciting new collaborations on the horizon. We see this as an important moment on our journey, and we can’t wait to share everything we have been working on and bring our concept to this part of the city.” Deansgate Square will comprise 1,508 apartments across four towers, which is being developed by Renaker. Senior development manager James Sidlow said: “We’ve long admired how General Store creates beating hearts at the centre of its neighbourhoods. We hope they, along with the host of other well-loved Manchester brands, still to be announced, will bring all this and more to Deansgate Square.” A new General Store at the Kampus development in Manchester city centre, plus two new food halls in Sale and Northwich have already been announced for this year, bringing the grand total to five launches for the group in 2021.
Marugame Udon to open second UK site at The O2 next month: International udon noodles and tempura restaurant brand Marugame Udon will open its second UK site next month. Following its European debut in London’s Liverpool Street in July, Marugame Udon continues its plans to bring Japanese noodles to the capital with a second opening at The O2 in Greenwich on Monday, 13 September. In May, Propel learned the business hoped to open five sites in London before the end of the year and would look to franchise here as part of its long-term growth strategy for the UK. The 4,500 square foot restaurant at The O2 will span two floors with 150 covers, including a mezzanine level for dining in. There is also the option of takeaway and a pick-up point for click and collect customers. Marugame Udon makes fresh, handmade udon noodles in-house, which can be seen by customers and those passing its kitchen throughout the day. The restaurant has a focus on speed and value for money, as well as quality. Executive chef Kouhei Honkawa will lead the kitchen team. Marugame Udon introduced its first vegan menu at its Spitalfields site, which makes up 30% of the menu, and will extend this to The O2 venue. Janine Constantin-Russell, managing director of Icon Outlet and the Entertainment District at The O2, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Marugame Udon to The O2 to bring its fresh Japanese noodles and exciting flavour combinations to our visitors. With the reopening of the arena, we’re excited to also be welcoming back music fans to the destination, and Marugame Udon’s quick service style is a fantastic dining option for our visitors to enjoy a bite to eat ahead of a show.”
Slim Chickens opens first north east site: Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) has added to its Slim Chickens estate, with its first opening in the north east. As revealed by Propel last month, Slim Chickens has opened in the former MOD Pizza site in the Metrocentre, Gateshead. BRG holds the master franchise for Slim Chickens in the UK. The 12-strong brand also has openings lined up in Brighton, Nottingham and Bournemouth, the latter of which will be operated by franchisee JRK Restaurants. Slim Chickens has also opened a concessions site in the Sainsbury’s in Selly Oak, Birmingham, as part of BRG’s The Hub, which sees five restaurant brands housed under one roof.
Team behind cocktail bar Callooh Callay opens site in Dalston: The team behind Callooh Callay, the award-winning cocktail bar concept, has opened a new site in London, in Dalston. The business, which was founded by entrepreneur Richard Wynne in 2008, has launched the Duchess of Dalston in Kingsland Road. It offers a selection of drinks that use the herb garden, which has been planted for the bar on the building’s roof. Drinks include a Summer of Joy cocktail made with Patron tequila and Bermondsey honey, and the Aunty’s Special featuring Slane whiskey, Jagermeister Cold Brew, Vietnamese coffee and condensed milk. The company operates sites in Rivington Street, Shoreditch and in Chelsea under the Callooh Callay name, plus the Little Bat bar in Islington. Propel revealed in May that Wynne has also secured a site in Balham.
Grays & Feather renames Covent Garden wine bar to mark new direction: London-based wine merchant Grays & Feather has renamed its Covent Garden wine bar to mark its new direction. The family-owned wine bar opened under the Grays & Feather name in 2018, specialising in sparkling wine from around the world. Now the venue in Wellington Street has been given its own name – Plume. The new wine list, known for its expertise in English and sparkling wine, doubles down on eccentricities and prestige wines from further afield, while still kept tight at 100 wines. A new menu focused on seasonable vegetables, foraging and sustainable seafood will change with the seasons. The menu focuses on sharing plates “to celebrate the return of sharing stories over food and wine in the cultural West End”. It features dishes such as pan fried ’nduja with tarragon-infused honey while the Golden Boy Grilled Cheese remains on offer. Grays & Feather continues its outdoor ventures with its converted Asquith festival van named Spirit Animal appearing at food events and gatherings offering a diverse range of wine and cocktails from the Covent Garden bar. Its three street market stalls on the South Bank, Ealing and Camden remain open. Grays & Feather founder Andrew Gray, who started the company from a market stall in 2011, said: “Maybe new customers will remember the name of the wine bar more easily now.”
Gainford Group rooftop bar restaurant fully booked ‘for foreseeable future’, work begins on other sites: North east operator Gainford Group has claimed its £2m rooftop bar and restaurant Above, at the Vermont Hotel, which is set to open on Friday (20 August), is fully booked for the foreseeable future. The Chester-le-Street business, which owns hotels, bars and restaurants including The County Hotel, also said the opening of Above has created 50 jobs. Gainford Group is now set to start work on two other Newcastle venues: the regeneration of the former Premier Inn on New Bridge Street and work on the three-level outdoor venue The Crescendo, which was due to open in July, according to Business Live. Above – the rooftop cinema, bar, restaurant and wedding venue at Castle Garth, Newcastle – has been completed in two phases. The first phase saw the creation of a luxury venue based inside a glass box, with 360° views over the city, while the second created a multi-use leisure site capable of hosting rooftop cinema nights, weddings and conferences alongside the bar. Director Imran Khaliq said: “It has been a long time coming but we are finally opening this weekend, and can’t wait for people to see it. It’s fully booked for the foreseeable future. As you can imagine, it’s been one of the most highly anticipated openings in the city for some time, so people have been very keen. Very few dates are available between now and Christmas, with weekends being the most popular.”

Vegan doner kebab concept launches in Norwich: A vegan doner kebab concept has opened in Norwich. Former care worker Anne Schröer is behind Doner Bei Tante Anne, in Wensum Street. Schröer, who is originally from Cologne, in Germany, said the name translates to Doner At Aunty Anne’s – a name inspired by the traditional pubs from her home. Her new vegan offering uses flavours inspired by her German roots and recipes taken from her grandmother. The menu includes a doner kebab made with vegan meat substitute seitan and Greek-style potato wedges in naan bread, and a choice of soup. Schröer told the Norwich Evening News: “I have a passion for cooking and I have always dreamed about having my own little cafe or restaurant. My boyfriend is vegan and I’m vegetarian. I’m from Cologne and I have always said how much I miss how they make kebabs in Germany. I have also had a lot of influence from my grandmother’s recipes – I thought I could mix that all together.”
Searcys becomes catering partner of Institute of Directors’ London headquarters: British restaurateur and events caterer Searcys has been appointed the new catering partner for 116 Pall Mall, home to the Institute of Directors in London. Founded in 1903, the Institute of Directors is the UK’s longest-running membership organisation for professional business leaders. From September, Searcys will manage all catering and service provision across the venue, which offers flexible workspaces, meeting rooms and event spaces, set across five floors. Searcys will also support the Institute of Directors in the further development of commercial events. As well as refreshed brasserie menus, Searcys will also introduce a new wine bar concept. For members, a new food and drink menu of signature dishes will be available in the members’ lounge. The venue will open to retail customers for the first time, serving a British afternoon tea in the Carlton Room, while guests will also have access to the garden terrace. Searcys managing director Paul Jackson said: “Hospitality remains pivotal in the social and economic recovery to our city, and with our expertise of running restaurants and events, we look forward to working with the team to create sleek and memorable experiences to realise the venue’s full potential and enhance our guests’ experience.” 
Kent-based pub owners acquire second site: Kent-based pub owners Chris and Debbie Salter have acquired their second site. The couple, who own the Poet in Matfield, have bought the Stile Bridge in Marden for £725,000. The 100-plus cover restaurant and bar was previously owned by Lynda Desmarais, who had not reopened the business after the first covid lockdown. Desmarais told Kent Live: “While I’ve enjoyed running the bar and restaurant, my other business interests in the region have grown and my attention has been focused elsewhere. When the pandemic started, it gave me an opportunity to reassess my priorities and I decided I no longer wanted to divide my attention with Stile Bridge, and thought it was right that someone else had the opportunity to make it their own.” Chris Salter said: “We are looking forward to firming up our plans for the place, and making it a new destination for the area.” Colliers acted on the deal.
Former The River Cafe chef launches debut solo venture: Max Rocha, a chef who has worked at The River Cafe and St John Bread & Wine, has launched his first solo venture. Rocha, who is the son of Irish designer John Rocha, has opened Cecilia Cafe in Hackney at the new WMe8 development in Andrews Road. The menu will include dishes such as asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli and creme fraiche pasty; and potato, onion and sage galettes. More recently, Rocha has been showcasing his work through a series of supper clubs and, in lockdown, has been running a delivery kitchen from A Flower Shop in Chatsworth Road, Hackney.
Milton Keynes-based Punjabi restaurant opens second site: Milton Keynes-based Punjabi restaurant Namji has doubled up with a second site in the Buckinghamshire town. Owner Naseem Khan has added to her debut outlet in Wolverton with an opening at the Xscape Centre. The restaurant, which is set across two floors, is located in the former La Tasca unit. Namji serves a range of dishes including bhindi bhaji, which are okra-infused and cooked until tender and soft, with chunks of onion plus tomato; and paneer tikka masala. The Xscape restaurant also offers a Punjabi afternoon tea and a range of cakes flavoured with Indian herbs and spices. Khan told MKFM: “From my humble beginnings from my little eight-table restaurant, Namji Wolverton, to my new venture Namji Xscape – wow, it’s been an adventure.”

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